Former ‘SNL’ Star In Hot Water Over Down Syndrome Comments
While making the rounds to promote his new show, a former “Saturday Night Live” funnyman is taking heat for using the term “Down syndrome” in a derogatory way.
Comedian Norm Macdonald appeared on “The Howard Stern Show” on Wednesday to hype his Netflix series “Norm Macdonald Has a Show,” which is slated to debut on the streaming service this Friday.
During the interview with Stern, Macdonald attempted to walk back remarks published earlier this week in The Hollywood Reporter in which he appeared to criticize the #MeToo movement. Those comments had led NBC to cancel the comedian’s scheduled appearance on Tuesday’s episode of “The Tonight Show” at the last minute.
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“You’d have to have Down syndrome, my new word,” Macdonald told Stern.
“Down syndrome, good word,” Stern interjected.
“You’d have to have Down syndrome to not feel sorry for, of course, #MeToo is what you want for your daughters. You know what I mean. You want that to be the future world, of course. I meet all kinds of women that have terrible stories of what’s happened to them. I wasn’t talking about the victims,” Macdonald continued in an attempt to explain himself.
By injecting “Down syndrome” into the mea culpa, however, Macdonald stirred up yet another firestorm.
“All people with Down syndrome are valued members of society and deserve to be treated with the upmost dignity and respect,” said Sara Weir, president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society. “This type of inappropriate language sustains and perpetuates negative stereotypes and further impedes the progress made by our organization and so many others as we strive toward full inclusion of people with disabilities.”
The Arc, meanwhile, noted that Macdonald’s comments were in especially bad taste given that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are seven times more likely than others to be victims of sexual assault.
“What is particularly disturbing about Norm Macdonald’s comment is that in his attempt to explain away his insensitivity to the #MeToo movement, he chose to mock a group of people who have a much greater understanding of victimization than he does,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “So, Mr. Macdonald’s comment is doubly offensive and shows his ignorance about the disability community. We welcome the opportunity to educate Mr. Macdonald about the disability rights movement and hope that in the future he will show more respect for millions of people with disabilities, their families, and all victims of sexual assault.”
Macdonald has previously been known to use the term “retarded.”
On Thursday, Macdonald apologized for his Down syndrome reference.
“It’s always bad when you have to apologize for an apology,” Macdonald said during an appearance on ABC’s “The View.”
“There used to be a word we would all say to mean stupid that we don’t say anymore. Right? You know the word I’m talking about? And stupidly I was about to say that word and I stopped and said, ‘What’s the right word to say?’ then I said a different word that was equally… I realized at that moment that I’d done something unforgivable,” the comedian said.
“The remark I made about people with Down syndrome was just a terrible, terrible, terrible thing for me to say,” Macdonald added.
(Updated: September 13, 2018 at 3:30 p.m. ET)